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Taste of the Hawaiian Range
Held at the Hilton Waikoloa Resort on September 10th, the 15th Annual Taste was a celebration showcasing not only the naturally grass fed Hawai'i grown beef but also pork, wild boar, lamb, mutton, goat and the many vegetables, fruits, value added products and other food products as diverse as coffee, tea, goat cheese, macadamia nuts and chocolate grown, produced and/or made on this island.The door opened for members of the media earlier than for the general public, thus giving us a bit of an advantage to explore and come up with a game plan so that we would not miss anything. We made our way around the ballroom first and then moved to the outdoor lanai, where most of the restaurant and chef food stations were preparing for the tasting to start an hour or so away.
The 29 chefs participating came to strut their stuff. They were challenged to create tasty dishes using pre-assigned cuts of meats. Anything from sirloin, chuck, flank, skirt and hamburger to the less attractive cuts of beef such as tongue, heart, oxtail, cheeks, knuckles, 'mountain oysters' and tripe.
The way in which chefs are assigned the cuts of meat to work with is a combination of luck of the draw and history such as what chefs have had to work with in the past. The committee making the assignments tries to not repeat a cut with a particular chef, although individual requests are taken into consideration. Each chef station receives 100 pounds of meat!
Both the Hawai'i Community College of Hilo and the West Hawai'i Culinary Schools were represented in food stations and were also assisting as part of other restaurant chef teams. All the meats, vegetables, fruits and value added food products used in the dishes presented by the chefs were Hawai'i Island grown and donated for the event by local ranchers, growers and producers.Grazing as we wandered, we tasted everything from fresh little rounds of heart of palm and a delicious heart of palm salsa, to goat cheese in assorted flavors, cookies, assorted cuts of beef including tongue, and various cuts of pork, lamb, mutton, goat meat and wild boar. In addition, honey, chocolate, coffee and refreshing teas from several different sources were sprinkled throughout, along with Hawai'i island artesian water.
A spectacular display of produce was presented by Kamuela Grown. Mounds and clusters of lettuce in various colors, kale, broccoli, cabbage, asparagus, artichokes, assortments of squash, beets, cucumbers, bok choy, gobo, daikon, tomatoes and much more, every bit of it grown on this island! After the display is dismantled, the produce is all donated to the Hawai'i Island Food Basket.
Attendees consist of participating farmers, producers and restaurants; non-participating farmers and producers looking for ideas of what to grow or what is needed; the media, both local and from the mainland; visitors from neighbor islands, many Hawai'i Island residents. There were also quite a few mainland and foreign visitors milling among the crowds. An event of this caliber is not only fun for foodies to participate in and attend, but in these times when we are so concerned about becoming a sustainable society it shows what we as island residents can do to become as self sufficient as possible.Diversified agriculture should become our way of life. With our different climates, elevations and terrain, we can grow almost anything on this island that will grow anywhere else in the sub-tropical world. The challenge, however, is not only to grow it here, but also to learn how to grow it without importing feed, soil amendments and fossil-fuel based herbicides and fertilizers.
If you haven't attended in the past, please make plans to attend at least once in the future. Presale ticket prices are $40 per person, $60 at the door. The Hilton Waikoloa Village Resort also had Kama'aina room-and-ticket package rates available with the proper resident ID.
Sonia Martinez, the Hawai'i Homegrown Food Network regular farmers market reporter, is a cookbook author and freelance food writer for several publications in Hawai'i, including The Hamakua Times of Honoka’a. She is a contributing writer for Edible Hawaiian Islands Magazine and has her own food & garden blog at soniatasteshawaii.com.